On the Spenser series
Voice of the City
I didn’t publish anything worth noting until the second chapter of my first novel. I say the second chapter, not the first, because the second chapter opens with the line, “The old neighborhood is the Edward Everett Square section of Dorchester.” That’s my voice. The opening line of the first chapter is, “The bar at the Ritz Carlton looks out on the Public Garden and requires a tie.” That is not my voice; that is Robert B. Parker’s voice. In fact, the whole first chapter, with its self-consciously flashy repartee and overtly smartass main character, Patrick Kenzie, cracking wise with excessive abandon, is so faux-Parker, so mimeo-Spenser, so wearing the anxiety of its influence on every inch of its sleeve, that if I could publicly disown it and still have the book make sense, I would do so.
The reason I discovered myself only in chapter two was because that’s when I left downtown for the neighborhoods. My Boston is the Boston of the neighborhoods, the ring around the hub. Robert B. Parker’s Boston is the city proper, The Hub itself. I write about the Victoria Diner and the Ashmont Grill in Dorchester; he wrote about the Parker House and Maison Robert on School Street by Old City Hall. He wrote about Newbury Street, Marlborough Street, and Commonwealth Avenue. I write about East 2nd, the Melnea Cass, and Dot Ave. And when I did wander into Parker’s backyard, I trod lightly and with respect. Because it was his zip code; I …